I write this from my hotel room in Denver, on my weekend-long (planned) layover in the Mile High City.

The remainder of my stay at Ucross was quite enjoyable, and remarkably busy. I didn’t finish the new orchestra piece, though I’m very close to the end, and very happy with what I’ve got written so far. I’m glad that I shelved what I’d attempted during my first week there – it was vastly inferior to this piece. (The aborted attempt, by the way, was to be three meditations on literary characters: Miles Malpractice from Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, Divine from Jean Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers, and Robert de Passavant from Andre Gide’s The Counterfeiters. The movement I scrapped was on Divine. The new piece has no literary underpinnigs. I’m waiting until I’m done, and have a satisfactory title to publicly reveal its inspiration.) The piece exists still in the form of detailed short score – I decided to leave it in manuscript form for the time being, and orchestrate it in one fell swoop at the end.

On Tuesday the 22nd, Travis Ivey, Edan Lepucki, and I participated in the Apache Foundation Tree Program by planting two Canada Red Chokecherries in the yard near the office. It was a really fun way to spend an hour: getting the trees from the Apache nursery, digging the hole, setting the tree in, filling the dirt around the base of the tree, and securing and fencing it in. I pounded in two of the poles that protect the trees from the wind, which was noisy and fun and made me shout “Hulk smash!” Now when I go back in a few years, I can check on how well my not-so-little tree is faring.

Wednesday evening, I gave a little concert in my studio after dinner at the request of some of the other residents. I played through the new piece first, and the residents who had heard the first section during our evening of open studios two weeks prior were particularly pleased by the additions. Then, "In the dark pine-wood" again for the new folk. And in between sessions of conversation, I played and sang through some pop tunes from a cabaret act that I’m working up with Darien and Danny. (We call ourselves the Bright Young Things – another Waugh reference in my life!).

Thursday after dinner, at the suggestion of Ben Fountain, we all drove into Buffalo to hear some live Bluegrass music at the Saloon at the Occidental Hotel, which was a real blast.

And Friday. The Last Day. Although I had spent the previous few days packing in small bursts, I was up early to make triple sure that I had everything packed and/or mailed off. Then a stop by the office to thank Sharon again for her invitation two years ago (again, publicly, thank you, Sharon!), and to let her know how beautiful / peaceful / amazing the area is, and how fantastic I felt about the work that I was able to do there. It really is a fantastic program, and I look forward to applying again as soon as the three year grace period between residencies is up.

Five of us left Friday morning: Edan Lepucki, Manil Suri, Shannon Fowler, and I flew out of Sheridan International, and Stephanie Ognar started her two-day drive back to Illinois. Our flight was delayed an hour because Great Lakes has a monopoly in the area and can do what it pleases while charging insane prices. They apparently made an unscheduled stop to pick up extra passengers in another town, which caused several passengers to miss their connections in Denver. Nice. The flight was at least uneventful (a little bit of a rough landing).

And there ends the tale of my residency at the Ucross Foundation. (Denver is its own story, which I’ll surely relate soon.)

I’m really happy to have gone, despite my initial misgivings about being in rural Wyoming for so long. It’s a beautiful area with lots of nature-y things to do, and some really wonderful people. The staff at Ucross are all amazing, fantastic people, and I’m so glad to have met them all! Sharon again gets singled out for thanks for her generous invitation. Cindy made the most fabulous meals – possibly the best dinners I’ve had in my entire life – she’s a real artist, herself! Kate, Mike, and Mary Ann were so friendly and great, and fun to talk with. Thanks to Tina for helping me with the various packages I sent and received, and the dozen or so off-color postcards I mailed to friends and family. And Ruthie – she did so much through the course of the four weeks that I have to limit myself to saying that she’s a really fantastic person, and a really fantastic cook, as well!

And now for tree planting photos, after the jump!

The tree that Edan Lepucki and I planted together.

It’s just so photogenic!

Mike Latham preparing the fencing while Travis Ivey and a member of the regular tree planting initiative fill in around the base of their tree. Edan supervises.

Same, with Mary Ann taking photos in the background.

More photos of the rest of my residency coming soon!